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Hague Tribunal Convicts Serb General - 2001-08-02

The International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague has convicted a former Bosnian Serb general of genocide for his participation in the 1995 killing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica. It is the first time that anyone has been convicted of genocide for crimes committed in Europe.

The court sentenced 53-year-old Radislav Krstic to 46 years in prison for genocide and the persecution of thousands of Bosnian Muslims after Bosnian Serb forces overran the United Nations safe haven of Srebrenica in July 1995. It is the harshest sentence handed down so far by the tribunal.

General Krstic had pleaded not guilty to genocide and the other charges against him. He denied responsibility for the killing of 7,000-8,000 Muslim men and boys that followed the Bosnian Serb army's capture of Srebrenica. General Krstic argued that his superior officer, General Ratko Mladic, gave the orders for the execution. But the tribunal ruled that General Krstic knew that massacres were taking place.

Judge Almiro Rodrigues said though the responsibility of others may be greater, General Krstic was guilty of agreeing to a plan to execute Srebrenica's men and boys of fighting age. "In July 1995, General Krstic, individually you agreed to evil," Judge Rodrigues said. "And this is why today this trial chamber convicts you and sentences you to 46 years in prison."

The grim-faced former officer, who lost a leg in a mine explosion, was allowed to remain seated when the sentence was read out.

Judge Rodrigues, in a lengthy summing-up of the facts surrounding the Srebrenica massacre, described what he called the killing spree that immediately followed the Bosnian Serb army's capture of the town. He somberly described how the Bosnian Serbs rounded up all Muslim men of fighting age, loaded them into trucks, transported them to remote locations, and summarily executed all but a few of them.

The guilty verdict for General Krstic is an indication that the two most wanted men sought by the tribunal, former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic and General Mladic, are also likely to face genocide convictions - if the two men are ever brought to trial.